By Barrington M. Salmon –
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – For more than a year, Blake Baines said he sounded the alarm on Facebook and to friends and family about the clear and present danger Donald Trump poses to the United States. Friends scoffed, said he was nuts, and pooh-poohed the possibility that the New York businessman could ever become president.
After nine months in office, Trump is every way as unscrupulous, traitorous and venal as expected, said Baines, a DC artist and Uber driver. So when Special Counsel Thomas Mueller handed down indictments on October 30 against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, Baines was quietly pleased.
“It’s overdue,” Baines said of the October 30 announcement. “I’ve been talking about this for a long time. The crimes, the treason Trump’s committed,” Baines alleged. “They used to hang people for that. I would like him and the others involved serve time or worse.”
Manafort and Page were slapped with a 12-count indictment charging them with tax fraud and money laundering, causing political debates and speculation among voters around the country. Charging documents allege that Manafort laundered $75 million through shell companies, the Bank of Cyprus – which federal officials say is where Russian mobsters and oligarchs rinse their money – and other off-shore accounts.
Baines said the Mueller investigation into whether the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 election to ensure a Trump victory isn’t a witch hunt or fake news, as Trump continues to assert, but is simply the pursuit of justice.
“I watched Rachel Maddow earlier this year and saw where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin jailed the CEO of Russia’s top oil company. They gave Putin access to their assets which he now controls. This gives him unlimited power with this money. Then Trump turns around and hires the CEO of Exxon as his Secretary of State. Exxon bought the rights to drill in Russia before sanctions were imposed by President Obama. Exxon wants those sanctions lifted so they can profit from their investment along with Putin.”
These events, Baines said, were coincidences and they indicate Trump’s involvement and unabashed support for Putin, which has confounded intelligence communities in the US and elsewhere, Democratic politicians, political pundits and others.
Also Monday, Mueller unsealed another indictment of a plea deal with former campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos who lied to the FBI about contacts with Russians. Federal investigators in court documents note Russian intelligence agents used middlemen to reach out to Papadopoulos in an effort to gain influence in the campaign. Papadopoulos is said to have been searching for “dirt” on Hillary Clinton for the Trump campaign and in June of last year had a meeting with Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and others in the campaign all who expressed desire to get their hands on a treasure trove of Clinton emails from the Russians.
Papadopoulos has been cooperating with Special Counsel prosecutors since last summer and pleaded guilty in October.
Alton Drew, an Atlanta-based consultant, said he’s unimpressed with what he read in the charging papers.
“I think it’s much ado about nothing,” said Drew, a plain-spoken Libertarian lawyer. “This indictment is well-written and goes into extensive detail but I read it and kept wondering, ‘Where is the word Russia?’ Within the fact patterns and assertions, there’s no mention of Russia. You start with the strongest argument first. There will be no cliffhanger at the end like on Perry Mason. What is Manafort giving them that he hasn’t already? He’s got to give them something strong. I don’t know that he has done that.”
Drew continued, “The real story for me is how this guy got away with this for more than 10 years…Why didn’t previous administrations catch this type of fraud? He’d better settle because he’s screwed. He will get nailed, he can’t get away from this.”
Drew also faulted Trump for a poor vetting process and for relying on questionable people drawn from his inner circle and network of friends, family and business associates.
Jamila Bey believes that so far this has been masterfully played. “I think that this has been brilliant tactically,” she said. “Mueller took a test shot. There are many ways to skin the cat. Mueller is fleshing out stuff they found out. The issue isn’t what you divulge but what you lied about. Manafort is going down, Papadopolous is going down because they lied. They had contact with a hostile government’s agents. Mueller’s strategy allows for deals and more prosecutions.”
“Incompetents do not rise to become the FBI director. You have to be smart and savvy,” Bey continued. “We lay people don’t have information Mueller has so we can speculate all we want, but Mueller is making sure all the bases are covered. He was taught to play the long game. This is not about the best shot, it’s what’s to come.”
Trump advisers, including Paul Manafort, have insisted that the campaign had no contact with Russians close to Putin but those assertions have been proven to be lies. Dogged reporting by the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN has revealed that Manafort, Papadopoulos, disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner and Trump lawyer Michael D. Cohen all have met with, talked to or associated with Russians officials or suspected intelligence agents.
The Mueller investigation is 5 months old and Baines and Bey say they expect that Trump may not get what he deserves for months if not years.
“Proof of Putin’s involvement and foreign interference will absolve us for our most egregious act of electing Trump,” said Baines. “Putin is a monster and here is Trump not saying anything about him. All of a sudden, Russia is our friend? What the hell? If you’re the president and you’re a traitor you should be punished. They need to make an example of him for this.”